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Last time we introduced this series by explaining its two-pronged goal. On one hand we want to provide an evaluative tool for anyone who listens to be able to identify whether or not they are genuinely born again with new life in Christ.
On the other hand, assuming that someone already knows or comes to learn that they genuinely possesses spiritual life in Christ, we want you to be able to understand the trajectory God has in mind for your spiritual maturity.
So, it makes all the sense in the world that God is going to explain that trajectory with the most seminal, foundational, necessary truth in the universe.
But before we get to that, make sure you check out our new homepage for Evermind Ministries. You can visit EvermindMinistries.com which is a landing page for AMBrewster Ministries, Faithtree Biblical Counseling & Discipleship, Truth.Love.Family., The Year Long Celebration of God, and the Evermind Ministries Store.
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And now let’s talk about the first step to spiritual life and the first evidence of spiritual life.
Let’s start by reviewing II Peter 1:1-4. Peter introduces himself, and identifies his audience as those who have received the faith he had. Faith which comes through the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ.
He then greets them praying that grace and peace be multiplied to them in the knowledge of God which is able to grant us everything we need for life and godliness into which we were called for God’s own glory and excellence.
And it’s by God’s glory and excellence that we have been granted precious and magnificent promises by which we have become partakers of the divine nature—having escaped the corruption of sinful lust.
And then in II Peter 1:5, Peter says, “Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence.”
Based off all that has come before, for the ultimate glory and excellence of God by which we partake in the divine life and nature and escape sinful corruption, we need to do something, and we need to do it diligently. And what is that something? The verse continues, “in your faith supply moral excellence.”
The very first evidence of spiritual life, the very first requirement for our spiritual life and maturity is not moral excellence . . . it all starts with faith.
I like the King James rendering of this verse. The first part of verse 5 reads, “And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue.”
The assumption is that if you have new life in Christ, you have faith. That was made clear all the way back in verse 1, “To those who have received a faith of the same kind as ours, by the righteousness of our God and Savior, Jesus Christ.”
If you and your fellow disciples have never listened to our Grow Your Worship Series, I am going to do more than encourage you to listen to it. I’m going to go so far as to say that you may never truly understand the importance and nature of faith if you don’t listen to that series.
Here’s why I say that. I am a biblical counselor. I have also moved 22 times in my life, have been a member of many churches, ministered to thousands and thousands of people, and I have found that the single most important concept in the life of a believer is also one of the most misunderstood and adulterated.
And of course it is. Satan hates us, and he doesn’t want us to truly understand the nature and significance of faith.
In fact, I was interacting with someone on Twitter recently who beautifully illustrated the point I’m making here. Though he was certain he understood what faith was, his description of it categorically proved his understanding was not biblically informed . . . despite the fact he claimed to hold a seminary degree.
Now, this is a big topic, and I will unpack it a little bit today, but my main goal for this episode is not to rehash the study we did in the Grow Your Worship Series. Everyone needs to take the time to listen to that. The goal today is help us identify the presence of or lack of genuine faith in our lives.
So, to that end, as I speak of faith, if it confuses you or seems to contradict what you thought it was, then you absolutely need to listen to that series. However, if what I say lines up perfectly with what you know about faith, great.
1. The Nature of Faith
Let me start by saying that faith and knowledge are categorically not the same thing. It’s true that you can’t believe what you don’t know, but the fact that you know something doesn’t mean you believe it.
In fact, I’ll take it one step further, to mentally acquiesce to a truth doesn’t mean you believe it either.
Faith is not a hope in something. Faith is not even technically blind. In reality, the blind ones are the ones without faith. II Corinthians 4:4 reads, “in whose case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.”
People say that faith is bling because Hebrews 11:1 says that, “Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” A lot of bad thinking about faith has come from poor understanding of this verse.
The word translated “hope” doesn’t refer to a baseless wish. It refers to a confident expectation in a guaranteed reality.
The word translated “conviction” is a hapax legomena that refers to a proof or a test that provides such proof. And the idea of things not seen doesn’t refer to baseless, reasonless, illogical, blindness like “I believe in magical purple unicorns who make the sun to rise even though there’s no proof of them.” No, no, no.
Let’s consider other places in Scripture where God refers to that which is not seen.
Romans 8:24 says, “For in hope we have been saved, but hope that is seen is not hope; for who hopes for what he already sees?” But this verse comes after Paul describing how the entire nature groans waiting eagerly for its future redemption. We don’t yet see that redemption as it’s a future reality, but that doesn’t mean we don’t know exactly what that redemption entails.
II Corinthians 4:18 talks about, “while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.” Did you catch that figurative language—“looking at the things which are not seen”? We know exactly what they are. The things which are unseen are the eternal things of our future.
Later in chapter 5, verses 6-8 we read, “Therefore, being always of good courage, and knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord— 7 for we walk by faith, not by sight— 8 we are of good courage, I say, and prefer rather to be absent from the body and to be at home with the Lord.”
Paul knew exactly what the future held—absent from the body is to be present with the Lord. We can’t physically see that reality right now, but we have good courage knowing that it’s coming.
And then a few verses later in Hebrews 11:7 we read, “By faith Noah, being warned by God about things not yet seen.” It wasn’t seen because it hadn’t happened yet, but Noah knew exactly what to expect.
And I think the best verse to illustrate this is Hebrews 11:27 where we find the author of Hebrews referring to Moses, “By faith he left Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king; for he endured, as seeing Him who is unseen.”
God Himself is unseen, and yet we know so much about Him. In fact, it’s through the knowledge of God that we have everything we need for life and godliness.
My point is this. Faith is not knowledge or mental assent.
Faith is also not knowledge-less. It is rooted in truth. The more truth we know, the stronger our faith is.
Faith is simply a choice to trust something.
In a best case scenario, faith is a choice to trust that what God says is true . . . is true.
God says that we are all sinners on our way to an eternal hell, but that Jesus Christ came and did what no one else could do. He died as a perfect substitutionary atonement for our sins so that we could have an eternal relationship with the God of the universe. And the Bible provides many details about what salvation is in justification, sanctification, and glorification. We learn about propitiation and the incarnation and the miracle of resurrection and so much more.
And the question is whether or not we will trust that what God has said is true.
Faith is a confident expectation that everything God says is true and either has happened exactly as He said it did or will happen exactly as He says it will.
And I also need to add that I believe the Bible is very clear that the faith necessary to trust God comes from God Himself. We can’t drum it up within ourselves. This is taught in II Peter 1:1, “To those who have received a faith of the same kind as ours.”
The word translated “received” is very interesting in that it refers to casting lots or being chosen by lots. Proverbs 16:33 tells us that what appears to be a random casting of the lot is decided by the Lord. You can’t make a set of dice do what you want it to do, but God does every time.
You can’t drum up genuine saving faith all by yourself, but God does, and we are the grateful recipients of that faith.
But since faith is nothing more than a choice to trust, that means that there is a faith that doesn’t lead to salvation. “How is that?” you ask. Well, what if you choose to believe a lie? What if you put your faith in something that’s not true?
Yes, there is a Living Faith and that Living Faith has two practical outworkings. There’s Saving Faith and Sanctifying Faith about which you can learn in Part 4 of the Grow Your Worship Series. But there is also Dead Faith, and there are three kinds of Dead Faith.
And this is where we need to pay close attention.
There are people out there who believe they believe in the right things. They have faith that they have faith in the God the Bible. They trust that they are trusting in truth . . . but they’re not.
So, allow me to quickly address the three kinds of Dead Faith.
A. Misplaced Faith
Misplaced Faith is faith in something other than God. If I believe that Santa Claus will take me to his polar workshop when I die, then my faith placed in Santa is a Misplaced Faith.
Countless people in the Bible had misplaced faith. Jezebel and Ahab believed their false gods would save them, but they both experienced the wrath of the one living God.
If you have Misplaced Faith, you are not a genuine believer. But the chances of any of you having Misplaced Faith as we’re defining it is slim to none unless you worship some god other than the God of the Bible, and you’re here simply to learn what Christians believe about faith.
So, let’s move to . . .
B. Confused Faith
This refers to someone who is personally deceived about what they believe. They’re convinced they believe in God, but really they just know things about God. They’ve confused knowledge of God with belief in Him. People who have confused faith live a confused life. They talk like they believe in God, but their life choices constantly betray what they profess.
I think Martha is a good example of this. Her brother, Lazarus, had just died. Jesus visited and said to Martha, “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies, 26 and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die. Do you believe this?” Martha replies, “Yes, Lord; I have believed that You are the Christ, the Son of God, even He who comes into the world.”
Martha knew that Jesus claimed to be the Messiah. She knew He fulfilled the prophecies concerning the Messiah, but in just a short time she would show that she didn’t really believe that Jesus was God in human flesh.
In fact, Jesus had to confront her about that same unbelief. When Jesus commanded that the stone covering Lazarus’ tomb be removed, Martha cried out, “‘Lord, by this time there will be a stench, for he has been dead four days.’” But “Jesus *said to her, ‘Did I not say to you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?’”
Martha acquiesced to the fact that Jesus was the Messiah, but she didn’t really believe it enough to trust that whatever He wanted to do was best. Otherwise, she would have had complete trust that everything Jesus was going to do was exactly what needed to be done and shouldn’t have been contradicted by her . . . a mere mortal.
This, my friends is something we all need to watch our for. This is the faith of the Rocky Hearted person in the Parable of the Soils. Luke 8:13 says, “Those on the rocky soil are those who, when they hear, receive the word with joy; and these have no firm root; they believe for a while, and in time of temptation fall away.”
I don’t have time to unpack this parable today. I’ve done it for Truth.Love.Parent. in The Four Children Series, and I plan to do it here in the future, but for now, understand that the Rocky Hearted person mentally acknowledges and accepts what they hear. But it’s not real faith—real trust—and so they fall away.
There are quite possibly people under the sound of my voice today who believe they believe, but they only just know. What are they to do? We’ll talk about that in our next point after we look at the third type of Dead Faith.
C. Partial Faith
A good way to illustrate this is faith in Christianity instead of faith in the Gospel. Paul was a good example of this before he was converted. He—like the rest of the Pharisees—followed the Old Testament Law in all the wrong ways. He would say that he believed in Yahweh, and he thought his obedience of the Old Testament Law was proof of that fact, but the legalism of the Pharisees showed that they didn’t understand the God they claimed to worship. They believed God was judging them based on their works instead of understanding that God would save them based on their faith.
Part of what they believed about God was right, but a big part was wrong.
This too happens all the time in the church. When people claim to believe in Jesus, and they quote the Scriptures, and they devote their lives to following Christ, but—in their mind—Jesus’ love would never allow Him to send anyone to Hell . . . they’re not really believing in the Jesus of the Bible. They’re believing in their own false version of Him, a full faith in a partial Jesus.
I’ve worked with many people who believe that Jesus doesn’t condemn homosexuality, that God is okay with transgenderism or abortion. These people may believe certain things the Bible says about God, but their faith is not in the God of the Bible because they are believing things about Him that aren’t true.
Another good biblical example of Partial Faith is the demons. In James we read, “You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder!”
The demons don’t submit to God as their King. They do not believe they must, but they do believe that He is powerful. That’s why they shudder. The demons have a right belief about the power of God, but they don’t have a right belief about the position of God. They still believe they can win.
Okay, so those three faiths are Dead Faiths because they are not belief unto salvation through a relationship with the true God of the Bible.
Now, let’s look at our final point for the day and apply it to each of us.
2. The Evidence of Faith
Peter is going to spend the next few verses telling us to add things to our faith—the first of which is virtue or moral excellence. Faith is not the end, it’s the beginning of everything. It’s the beginning of life, and it’s the beginning of change.
This is why James contrasts the Living and Dead Faiths with one simple evidence. You are all very familiar with James 2:14, “What use is it, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but he has no works? Can that faith save him?”
Verse 7 says, “faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself.”
Verse 18 tells us, “But someone may well say, ‘You have faith and I have works; show me your faith without the works, and I will show you my faith by my works.’”
And verse 26 reads, “For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead.”
If you want to know if you have true spiritual life, then there are a couple things that will absolutely be true.
A. You will unequivocally trust the God of the Bible.
Now, this won’t mean that you won’t have questions or doubts. But it means that when you discover that which you need for life and godliness in His Word, you will trust it. But you won’t simply acknowledge it’s truth.
B. You will act according to your trust in the God of the Bible.
Now, everyone acts according to what they believe. We all do what we believe is best. Therefore, it’s our doing that evidences our beliefs.
This is why in I John, the Apostle writes, “If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth.”
It doesn’t matter what you say. I’ll go so far as to say, it doesn’t matter what you believe . . . if your works do not flow from a genuine trust and obedience to God’s Word—a submission to God—your belief is not rooted in the God of the Bible.
When someone confronts you using the Bible, do you submit to the reproof? Do you at least humbly take the time to test yourself, study the Scriptures, surround yourself with biblical counsel, and at least consider the fact that you may be in sin?
When you become convinced of the fact that you have actually transgressed God’s law, do you humbly confess your sin, ask for forgiveness, and start the process of change in repentance?
Do you submit your life choices to the Bible? Do you strive in all things to make certain that everything you do, say, feel, want, and think are in line with God’s expectations for your life?
Are you a student of the Word, not comfortable to assume that you have it all figured out, but one who recognizes your need for continued spiritual maturity, recognizes the fact that you don’t know and understand it all, and continues to learn from the Bible so that you may be more and more conformed to the image of God?
Faith, my friends, is the gateway to spiritual life, but it’s also the springboard for our maturity in it. A person who is moving away from God, deconstructing their faith, and the like does not have saving faith.
But neither does a person who is stagnate and unchanging in their supposed faith. Growing things change. God demands that we mature and be sanctified from one degree of glory to another. Stagnation is not a state in which a genuine child of God can live.
Again, this doesn’t mean that we’ll never sin, never slip back into old habits, and the like, but the idea of a “carnal christian” is not a biblical reality. A professing believer who backslides and never slides back to conformity to Christ was never a believer.
Now, before we finish up today, I need to provide . . .
C. A Warning
Human beings are blind. We’re foolish. We’re ignorant. We’re deceived. It’s so incredibly easy for us to believe that we’re believing the right things and living the right ways . . . and be completely wrong.
We may be able to look at our lives and remember a time that you believe you put your trust in Christ, and then you may look at your life and see changes that appear to be the result of that trust, but I can’t tell you how many people I’ve met who were in that same position who later came to realize that they were a Rocky Hearted individual.
They saw things in the Scripture with which they agreed. They changed their lives in their own power to conform to the expectations they saw in the Bible which—by the way—were generally only freckle-deep. It was outward, superficial conformity to a standard. It was hypocritical, it was Pharisaical.
And they later realized they never truly were trusting Christ. They were trusting their own ability to do what they thought needed to be done. In reality, they were their own god. They had decided how they needed to live, and they were doing it in their own power and for their own glory . . . all the while convinced that they had genuine faith in God.
And of those people—when they saw the situation for what it actually was—some of them submitted to Christ for the first time in their lives . . . but others relished their freedom from the superficial masquerade, and they finally outwardly rejected Christ as they had been doing inwardly the whole time.
So, what do we do?
Well, it goes back to what I said before. We absolutely must know and understand the Scriptures the best we can. We need to study and get wise counselors and be the eternal student God created us to be.
If you are prideful and defensive and argumentative when you are approached about possible sin in your life, that needs to be a warning sign—not simply that you may not be born again, but at least broadly that you may well be very wrong on this point, and you do need to change.
Now, there are so many other points that could be made here, but I pray that we’ve laid the ever-necessary groundwork to allow the other evidences of spiritual life to compound with this one and either convince or convict us of the truth of our spiritual life and the trajectory of our spiritual growth.
Again, please listen to the Grow Your Worship Series. It’s linked in today’s description. Also, check out The Discipleship Spiral. That series will help you to better understand the relationship between knowing, understanding, and believing something. It will also further substantiate the absolute necessity of living works that grow from Living Faith.
Please share this episode on your favorite social media outlets so that others can not only rightly judge their relationship with God, but—Lord willing—grow in it.
Also, never hesitate to send an email to Counselor@CelebrationOfGod.com if you have personal questions you’d like to ask,
And then join us next time as we seek to better know, love, and worship God and help the people in our lives do the same.
To that end, we’ll be discussing the next evidence of spiritual life: excellence.
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The Year Long Celebration of God is a discipleship experience designed to equip followers of Christ to better know, love, and worship Him as they help others in their lives do the same. We exalt God, teach His people how to practically worship Him every day of the year, and train them to disciple others.
Whether it's a small group, church, classroom, one-on-one, or community relationship, this resource is guaranteed to draw people closer together as they draw closer to God.
AMBrewster is the creator of The Year Long Celebration of God and host of its podcast.